Life Without a Cell Phone: Confessions of a Freak

Living at the Diamond A without cell phone service isn’t very different from living at the 25 without cell phone service, or living at the Van Norman Ranch without cell phone service. Here in Northern Nevada, we are long on colored cattle and Early Times, but short on cell towers.

I may be the last resident of a First World country who has never downloaded an app. I’ve never had a smart phone – well, I used Jim’s for a few months when we were first married for town trips, but I never did understand how to use the thing beyond making and receiving calls. It would make weird little beeps and dings, and I would ignore it. I don’t think it liked me very much.

Now we are back to using my trusty old slide-out phone. It’s shiny and blue and the background is a picture of Jim driving his old brown ’92 Ford that I took from the middle seat when he was driving me to the airport after I visited him at his winter job in Texas while we were dating. Looking at it makes me want to let Jim buy me a steak dinner, drink two gin and tonics, and make out in the parking lot.


As a married couple, we are on are on a prepaid cell phone plan, possibly the most money-saving move we have made in the last six months. The phone only has service when I go to town for groceries two or three times a month. I take the phone on these trips, mostly so I can call Jim when I leave cell service on the way home and leave him a message with the time. This way, he’ll know when to come looking for me and Grace if we don’t make it home for some reason.

Changing to a prepaid plan took our cell phone bill from $125 per month for an Android with unlimited long distance, texting, and Internet (I can’t remember how many gigabytes or megabytes or overbites or pretzel bites it was) to about $8 a month for unlimited long distance calls and $0.02 per text message. I don’t text anymore, so I always keep my two cents to myself. For an additional $2 every time we use the phone, we can get unlimited Internet usage, but the Internet experience on a slide out phone is so unsatisfactory we don’t even bother. I just dial 411 when I need a phone number or address like the good ol’ days of five years ago.

So, how do we survive without a cell phone on a daily basis? Basically the same way people have survived for literally thousands of years: just fine. We have to actually interact with other people, but other than that it’s not too bad. When I walk down to the barn to visit with Jim while he’s shoeing a horse, I pick up a piece of rope and play with the barn cat. I carry Grace over to Bob (aka “Bobalicious,” “Bronco Bob,” “You Bald-Faced Son of a Bleep”), Jim’s #1 horse, and let her sit on him bareback. When I’m talking to Jim, our conversations aren’t interrupted by any vibrating or ringing handheld devices. I don’t carry on written conversations consisting entirely of one-letter words.

Our work lives are unaffected by not having cell phones in our pockets at all times, and both Jim and I have been employed since we were high school kids and never taken a welfare check. I’m a journalist who works from home, so not having Internet is a much bigger hindrance than not having cell service. Jim is a cowboy, so not having cell service is normal. He’s out ridin’ the bad and ropin’ the wild, not updating his status so all his Facebook friends know he’s a cowboy.

I don’t think it’s practical, safe or enjoyable to live in a house without a phone line of some sort, so below is a picture of our phone.

Crank phone

Just joshin’ ya. Here is our actual phone, complete with a funny little Mexican horse my mom gave me.


We have a single landline with no caller ID or call waiting. The phone company said we live too far out for such niceties. We answer the phone with an inquiring “Hello?” and have the fun of a surprise on the other end. Who could it be? Is it for me? Is it for you? We know who the other person has been talking to, and I get to use quaint phrases like, “May I tell him who’s calling?” and “He’s not in right now, but can I take a message?”

Without caller ID, we actually have to write down phone numbers. With a pen. On a piece of paper. It’s rugged, but somehow we’ve managed so far. We also have to look up or memorize commonly called phone numbers, just like the Neanderthals. For those who say cell phones don’t make you dumber, quick, tell me your mom’s/sister’s/brother’s/own phone number? Ha! Don’t know it without looking it up in your contacts list, do you?

When we went to rodeos or visited friends off the ranch this summer, we got so used to not having a cell phone that we just let the dang thing in the pickup. If anyone’s back pocket starts vibrating, it’s never me. I am now the freak looking people in the eye and chatting.

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Crank phone photo credit

4 thoughts on “Life Without a Cell Phone: Confessions of a Freak

Add yours

  1. Oh, the good ‘ol days! We actually did have a crank phone (it’s up in my attic right now) with service from Grandma Clark’s house (the white house down from the log house) to my Uncle Ray’s house at the 5-Bar (the house isn’t there any more). I used to run down to Grandma’s to call the cousins to see what they were doing and could they play. I thought it was really neat not to have to walk all the way to their house just to talk. I have a smart phone now — finally gave in last fall. I will say though, I still memorize phone numbers, just in case.

    1. How fun! We live in the white house now 🙂 I love not having cell service, definitely a perk of life at the Diamond A.

  2. Haha, just like living downriver! People in town never understood why it took so long to answer texts, or to call them back. My parents are really living in the 21st century with an answering machine.

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